Some women know exactly how they want to give birth long before their due date arrives. Maybe they're midwife Ina May Gaskin's biggest fan and have vowed for a natural birth no mater what, or perhaps they booked an induction at the first possible moment and got the anesthesiologist on standby for an epidural. But a lot of women don't know exactly what they want when it comes childbirth, medicated or natural, and that's why it's important to weigh your options carefully. A good place to start is this list of signs you might benefit from a medicated birth, which can help to point you in the direction that could be best for you and your baby.
Your health and the health of your baby can play a role in whether you would benefit from a medicated birth, but so can your support system, your pain tolerance, and how prepared you feel before you start the laboring process.
Medicated birth can sound scary even to the most pain-averse mother. However, there are several levels of medication you can receive during labor that can help control your pain. Some of these are more invasive than others, and some have more long-lasting effects than others. The U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that the epidural is the most popular form of drug-based pain relief used during childbirth, but even epidurals can come in varying doses depending on the needs of the mom.
Whatever your decision about the kind of childbirth you want to have, you're no less a mama because you've had an epidural than if you stuck it out without medication. First and foremost, choose the option that is best for you and your baby, and perhaps consider this list of signs as you're mulling your options and discussing them with your doctor.
If you know you have a low tolerance for pain, you might benefit from a medicated birth. Fit Pregnancy broke it down: "A combination of genetics and life experiences determines your pain threshold, or ability to withstand pain," and while fear and anxiety about childbirth can affect pain even further, your general level of pain tolerance is actually very difficult to change. If you're the type to pop an ibuprofen at the slightest bit of discomfort, you might be more comfortable having an epidural.
If you suffer from elevated blood pressure, or hypertension, childbirth can exacerbate this condition and create a danger (albeit small) of stroke for the mom. Today's Parent explained, however, "A common benefit of epidural — a drop in blood pressure — can reduce these risks."
Not everyone has someone, let alone a small army, lined up to support them through the long hours of birth, but that doesn't mean that you can't have a natural birth. It is simply another factor to weigh in when you're considering a medicated or natural birth. The U.S. National Library of Medicine explained that having a birth partner present can help a woman give birth without medication. "Knowing that their partner, friend or another person close to them will offer consolation and support during the birthing process can often already help women cope with labor pain." If you know that isn't possible or even what you want, you might consider having a medicated birth.
If you know you're at risk for having a C-section, for instance if you have had previous births by C-section, your baby is breech, or other condition that causes your doctor to recommend surgery, you might benefit from a medicated birth, as opposed to general anesthesia. If you are at risk for a C-section, an epidural that allows you to be awake and alert for the delivery of your baby, rather than being totally knocked out, is optimal, said The U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Not everyone has the time to devote to the sort of training a natural birth would benefit from. Most of the time, childbirth is not a sprint, but a marathon, and if you're going au naturel, the minutes can really stretch. Breathing and meditation are just a few techniques that many women learn and practice well in advance, especially if delivering without an epidural is part of their birth plan.
Unfortunately, if you have Type 1, 2, or gestational diabetes, giving birth can be more difficult than it would be otherwise. Healthline reported that women with diabetes can have "impaired uterine contractility," meaning that they could push for hours and not make much progress — basically, a lot of pain with minimal results. Plus if an emergency C-section is called for at the last minute, you would already be set up to receive the stronger epidural that is required for that procedure.
In addition to the obvious risks to the developing baby, using illicit drugs can create other problems for the mother during labor, including hypertension, which could be alleviated by having an epidural. If a woman is found to be abusing drugs while in active labor, the baby might be more likely to be delivered by C-section to ensure both the mother and baby's safety, according to a study in the Journal of Addicted Medicine.
All About Women explained that an epidural can allow for more rest during labor, which, if your baby is at risk for distress at birth, can be helpful. However, it's important to know that medicated births can sometimes take longer in the pushing phase and can keep the baby from getting into position because she can become lethargic following an epidural.
Basically, its up to you and your doctor to come up with the best plan that equally prioritizes your wishes as well as you and your baby's safety.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.